“How to Interview and Win” – This will be a three-part Job Interview series to help you interview your way to the job. The series includes:
* Phone Interview: 7 Tips to Get Invited In
* How to Create a Lasting Impression in Your First (In-Person) Meeting
* Managing the Interview Chaos
Part I. Phone Interview: 7 Tips to Get Invited In
Given the current economic condition, with no clear indication of unemployment drastically improving any time soon, applicants have never faced a competitive landscape as fierce and brutal as the job market today. You, like many others, have been diligently looking for a job, using the different means available; recruiters, job boards, family, friends and your vast professional network. After weeks and weeks of nothing but rejection notices, your efforts finally pay-off and a potential employer requests a phone interview. That all too important phone interview is your ticket to the dance; how well you do is the difference between getting invited for an in-person interview and getting the “we’ll be in touch” brush-off.
A phone interview is a filter to narrow down the pool of job applicants. When preparing for a phone interview, your goal is to get to the next stage. Here are phone interview tips to get invited in:
1) Rule Number One: Be Prepared. Find out who you’ll be talking to; ask for the person’s name, title and expectations. It’s surprising how most candidates don’t ask what to expect from the person conducting the phone interview. The facilitator of the phone interview is typically a recruiter or Human Resources staff. In either case, their objective is to find qualified candidates and fill the open position as expediently as possible. They are usually very helpful and willing to provide general information to aid applicants in the process. You may not always get the exact answers to your questions, but you won’t know unless you ask.
TIP: If you get an impromptu call intended to be a phone interview, don’t do the interview right there and then. Instead, thank the person for calling and request a later date and time for the phone interview. This is not a negative or poor reflection on you. In fact, this way you’ll be well prepared (not caught off-guard) and instead, improve your chances for success.
2) Do your research and find out as much as you can about the company, the person you’ll be talking to and the job requirements. The internet can provide a wealth of information, as well, your professional network.
TIP: Make sure you’ve thoroughly reviewed their Website, that’s a given. Read through recent press releases and news articles.
3) Create a skills and experience matrix. Map your personal skills, qualifications, education and experience to the job responsibilities and requirements. Highlight where you’re strong and identify any gaps. Where you have gaps, such as lacking a certain skill or proficiency, you need to be prepared to address them (if asked).
TIP: Articulate that you’re a fast learner and cite an example from prior experience that supports your claim.
4) Prepare a list of relevant and intelligent questions, relating some to your research. Write them down in the order of importance. It doesn’t mean you should ask all the questions necessarily. Some may be addressed over the course of the conversation and others may no longer be as relevant depending on the direction and tone of the interview.
TIP: You should ask questions during or towards the end of the phone interview. Asking questions demonstrates independent thought and shows you’ve done your due diligence.
5) Be on time, do not be even a minute late. If you are expected to call-in, do so a minute or two before the scheduled time. It is better for you to wait rather than the interviewer wait on you. If they are calling you, be ready and expect the call ten to fifteen minutes beforehand. This way you can relax and gather your thoughts.
TIP: Conduct the phone interview in a quiet place with no distractions. Avoid using a cell phone and risk having poor reception.
6) Be assertive. In closing, re-emphasize your keen interest in the position and why you’re perfect for the job.
TIP: Be assumptive. Propose a couple of dates and times to meet in person.
7) Follow-Up. Send an email immediately after the phone interview to thank the person for his or her time and for the job opportunity. Summarize the highlights of the call, emphasize again your interest, why you’re perfect for the job and confirm the next step. Continue following-up (without being obnoxious) until you get a definitive response. This shows persistence, tenacity and genuine interest in the job.
TIP: Be assumptive. Confirm the in-person interview as the next step. If you have not heard or received anything a week after your phone interview and thank-you email, follow-up with a phone call and another email asking for an update. Remember, “out of sight, out of mind”.